By Diego Ramos / Original to ScheerPost
It comes as no surprise that after notoriously earning titles like “the most corrupt nation in Europe,” back in 2015, Ukraine is now facing a massive corruption scandal that has led to the resignation and firing of several top officials.
The New York Times has reported on a number of these resignations and firings, including Viacheslav Shapovalov, a deputy minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense; Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the presidential office; and Vasyl Lozynsky, a deputy minister in Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry.
In all, “A top adviser, four deputy ministers and five regional governors left their posts on Tuesday,” according to a BBC report.
News of the ousting of these names came after President Zelensky announced a travel ban for government officials, which prohibits them from leaving the country unless engaging in official business.
Despite the defense ministry calling the allegations against Shapovalov “unfounded and baseless,” the former deputy minister requested his own firing and these actions were praised.
Support our Independent Journalism — Donate Today!
According to The Times, the “baseless” allegations saw “a Ukrainian newspaper report[ing] that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food at inflated prices, including eggs at three times their cost.”
Additionally, “That it took three days for Mr. Shapovalov to step down raises serious questions about the Ministry of Defense’s commitment to rooting out corruption, said Vitaliy Shabunin, the director of operations for the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based nongovernmental organization.”
Zelensky’s own deputy, Tymoshenko, also offered his resignation for his exploitation of Ukrainian resources. The Times mentions criticism and questioning from Ukrainian journalists in regards to Tymoshenko’s “lavish lifestyle and use of government resources.”
They elaborate further, stating, “In particular, he had been criticized for zipping around in an expensive SUV that General Motors had donated for use in humanitarian missions.”
The deputy infrastructure minister’s firing did not come voluntarily after anti-corruption officials exposed Lozynsky’s embezzlement operation.
“The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, said that Mr. Lozynsky was part of that group and had been detained while getting a $400,000 bribe for helping with equipment and machinery purchasing contracts,” The Times report reads.
In a statement from the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, details emerged surrounding the contracts, specifically how “The contracts were related to restoring critical infrastructure facilities and providing light, heat and water during the winter.”
Reporting from The Guardian adds that, Lozynsky “is said to have colluded with contractors to inflate the price of generators and siphoned off part of the difference.”
Oleksiy Arestovych, another Zelensky adviser, resigned “for spreading misinformation about who was responsible for an airstrike on an apartment building collapse that killed 46 civilians in the city of Dnipro Jan. 14,” according to an NPR report.
The Guardian has also reported on the names of the regional governors removed by Zelensky. “The governors being removed from position are Valentyn Reznichenko, of Dnipropetrovsk oblast [region], Oleksandra Starukha of Zaporizhzhia oblast, Oleksiy Kuleba of Kyiv oblast, Dymtro Zhivytskyi, Sumy oblast and Yaroslav Yanushevich, of Kherson oblast. The deputy social policy minister, Vitaliy Muzychenko has also been sacked.”
Despite praise for the Zelensky government’s actions from senior advisers like Mykhailo Podolyak who tweeted Zelensky “directly responds to a key public demand,” journalists like The Guardian’s Isobel Koshiw continue to emphasize the regularity of corruption in Ukraine:
“Before the war, corruption scandals were an almost daily feature of Ukrainian political life. The country was ranked 122 out of 180 by Transparency International in 2021, making it one of the world’s most corrupt countries. The EU has made anti-corruption reforms one of the key requirements for Ukraine gaining EU membership.”